AWS rookie here. I created a few EC2 instances under my AWS account and reused the same Key Pair for all of them. I believe (IIRC) that I had generated the Key Pair from inside AWS, but that could be wrong.

Over this past weekend I sold my old laptop (after completely wiping the hard disk) and got a new one. I'm just remembering now (:facepalm) that I forgot to copy all my SSH private keys to a flash drive and that I no longer have them.

All I want/need to do is to SSH into my EC2 instances, but to do that I need my SSH keys. I still have AWS console access, and I can log in and view all my EC2 Key Pairs. But I don't see any options for downloading them or updating my EC2 instances with new Key Pairs.

So I ask:

  1. Is it possible for me to recover my existing Key Pairs somehow so that I can SSH into my EC2 instances? Again I can log into the AWS console. If not, then...
  2. Is it possible to generate another Key Pair and "swap it out" for my existing Key Pair?

I really don't want to have to tear down my old EC2 instances and re-provision new ones, that will take about a week for me to do (although, arguably, it would serve me right!).


It is only possible to regain access to an EBS-backed Linux instance.

But for regular instances, it is not possible to recover the key as AWS doesn't save a copy of it.

So in your case, if your instances are not EBS-backed, then you will have to destroy the instances, create a new key and new instances using the new key.

More information can be found here.

This is the relevant information from the above link:

Amazon EC2 doesn't keep a copy of your private key; therefore, if you lose a private key, there is no way to recover it. If you lose the private key for an instance store-backed instance, you can't access the instance; you should terminate the instance and launch another instance using a new key pair. If you lose the private key for an EBS-backed Linux instance, you can regain access to your instance. For more information, see Connecting to Your Linux Instance if You Lose Your Private Key.

Edit #1:

In order to regain access to the ebs-backed instances, you must stop the instance, detach its root volume and attach it to another instance as a data volume, modify the authorized_keys file to add your newly created ssh key, move the volume back to the original instance, and restart the instance.

Information about that process can be found here.

  • Thanks @Itai Ganot (+1) -- I see that my Root device type is "ebs" and that both my "Root device" and "Block devices" values are /dev/xvda...does this mean there's any hope for me?! – hotmeatballsoup Apr 10 '18 at 9:38

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